Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Frazier exits, Reds squander, Towel thrown in

I drafted some of this around the All Star Game but never posted it. I figure now is a good time.

I don't remember the year anymore; a good guess would be 2008, since I was in Ohio that year and went to several Dayton Dragons games. Todd Frazier was a prospect at the time. He hit a homer that went out of the park at one game.

I was well into adulthood by then, but I stood outside the players entrance with a ball and pen in hand with the kids after the game. All of the Dragons players but one had signed it, all but the one I wanted the most: Frazier. He was older than many of the other players, as he had graduated from Rutgers and had started pro ball in Billings, the Reds Rookie League affiliate for decades now. Edwin Encarnacion was entrenched at third, though Frazier may have been a shortstop back then. He did not garner the same excitement I had felt for Bruce and Votto a few years before. Still, I wanted his name on that ball.

I remember Bruce's Reds debut; I made an effort to go to that game. I sat way up high behind homeplate. I had Sam Adams beer bottles confiscated at the gate. I remember that detail, for some reason.

I remember watching Homer's debut, too, when I lived on Ingraham Street way up in 16th Street Heights, where I biked to work through a Colombia Heights neighborhood that was still sketchy after dark. Storms knocked the power out in the fifth inning; I had to listen to the rest of the game through a scratchy WLW that was coming to DC all the way from Cincinnati.

I remember Tony Cingrani's debut. I had brought Chris to see the ballpark in Cincinnati. (He still frequently brings it up, usually mentioning the Reds Hall of Fame and the wall of baseballs for Pete's hits, impressed and awed.) Cingrani made a relief appearance that game; the starter left the game early, but I don't remember who he was. It might have been Cueto.

I remember Cueto's debut. I was at that game, too. It was freezing and wet and I signed up for a credit card just to get a free blanket. My other cards reduced my credit limit because of that application - they don't warn you about that. Cueto was throwing a no hitter through five innings and people were starting to whisper about the zeroes on the scoreboard. He ended up striking out ten batters that game. I don't remember the opposing team. I feel like it might have been the Pirates. I'm probably wrong.

I remember the Dunn and Kearns show, two guys for whose call up I had been waiting since their Dragons days. They were really the first players I can remember whose whole careers I had watched. I was pretty heartbroken when they swapped Kearns in The Trade of 2006, that awful deal that threw away one-fourth of our entire offense for a couple of relievers and quite possibly ruined the season.

I don't remember Frazier's debut. I don't even remember his call up. Maybe it was in September of that disappointing 2011 - I think I've blocked out much of that season. One can only tolerate so much disappointment in baseball before the brain takes protective measures.

Weird, the things you remember and the things you don't.

The Dragons ball has Todd Frazier's signature on it, and I know which one it is. As for the others? Tucker Barnhart could be on there. And the guy who was a big prospect with Frazier...we traded him to...Baltimore? Brandon. Brendan? Warring? Warren? Waring? Gone. Curtis Parch? Gone. Scott Carol? Gone. Carlos Fischer? Gone. Jake Kahlehawaii...whatever his last name was? Gone. I don't even remember other players.

Yeah, I could look them up, but why? The internet is not a replacement for memory. Memory is about experience, about life. Unfortunately life fades and withers until it is no more. Just like our memories.

Sure, we're upset about trades now. In a year, maybe two, we'll forget all about it. [We always do, despite the warnings to not forget the past. Right now we have major presidential candidates proposing registration for groups of people they don't like, and a significant chunk of Americans agree with them. This, despite all of the WWII Holocaust movies that should keep alive the memory of what happens when you do that to people. I guess human beings never learn.]

The Reds are in rebuilding mode, yes. They missed their window because Walt Jocketty was unable or unwilling to fill the gaping holes in a very good but not good enough team. I didn't watch many games of the second half of 2015, and I don't see myself watching a lot of a 2016 season that has already been thrown away. I get the rebuilding. But I'm angry because they missed that window, and though the holes were obvious to all but the most casual fan, they did not fill them. Which makes the rebuilding worse. I remember the last rebuilding. It was exciting because we hadn't won in a while, and players like Votto, Bruce, and Cueto were some of the top prospects in baseball. I remember when John Sickles was writing about the Reds farm system, he started his post with "Good lord." The farm was loaded.

And then it was squandered in a couple of first round playoff exits and a Wild Card game I wish hadn't happened. Yeah, playoffs are better than none, and two division titles should be nothing to scoff at, but we were a leftfielder and a bench player away from winning it all.

That's the real disappointment. It's not the trading away of players and the rebuilding. It's the squandering.

Yeah, I'll be in and out of 2016. But they better fast track this rebuilding because I'm ready for 2017, so they better be, too.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Baseball pics from Brooklyn

Walked around the Brooklyn Cyclones ballpark at Coney Island over the weekend. The Jackie Robinson/Pee Wee Reese statue was worth the walk.

Back then, Cincinnati cops weren't killing black guys, but Cincinnati fans were disgustingly racist. The statue honors the moment at Crosley Field when Reds fans were taunting and jeering Robinson and Reese came over and put his arm around him to shut them up.

Things are somewhat better now than then, but racist remarks at GABp are a regular occurrence, and now Cincinnati cops are killing black guys for not having drivers licenses. (Of course, Cincinnati isn't alone in this trend.) Sadly, this statue in Brooklyn was vandalized with racist slurs and swastikas a few years ago.

That there are Americans who justify cops giving people the death penalty without trial is evidence that America is in decline. While many of these same people point to marriage equality as "moral decline," the truth is the real moral decline is that murder of actual human beings has been legalized and glorified in our country and racism has made a strong comeback.

Enough is enough, America.

"This monument honors Jackie Robinson and Pee Wee Reese: Teammates, friends, and men of courage and conviction. Robinson broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball, Reese supported him, and together they made history.

In May 1947, on Cincinnati's Crosley Field, Robinson endured racist taunts, jeers, and death threats that would have broken the spirit of a lesser man.

Reese, captain of the Brooklyn Dodgers, walked over to his teammate Robinson and stood by his side, silencing the taunts of the crowd. This simple gesture challenged prejudice and created a powerful and enduring friendship.

Born 1919 Cairo, Georgia - Died 1972 Stamford, Connecticut. Jack Roosevelt Robinson. On April 15, 1947 Robinson first took the field for the Brooklyn Dodgers, breaking the color barrier in Major League Baseball. In the face of hostility, he remained steadfast, winning his way into the Hall of Fame and the hearts of baseball fans. Robinson was a champion of the game of baseball, of justice, and of civil rights."

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Here's Johnny

What a wonderful performance by Johnny Cueto last night.

I'll never forget his debut game, a miserable rainy April game in Cincinnati during which we signed up for credit cards just to get a free blanket, back when the credit card companies were allowed to exploit you at ballgames.

We saw the zeroes on the scoreboard and everyone was looking around at each other, unwilling to say aloud what was happening. That's back when you didn't mention no hitters by tradition. But it was five innings of zeroes and we thought we were witnessing something special. We were. We were witnessing the debut of a homegrown guy whom we would see become one of the best pitchers in baseball. This, in Cincinnati, who once had Tom Seaver and Mario Soto and few other pitchers of the caliber of Good in its very long history. This, where we watched Paul Wilson and Eric Milton and Pitchers Whose Names We've Forgotten because they were so mediocre or worse.

Cueto had ten strikeouts in his debut, if I remember correctly. It was a masterful performance just like last night was masterful, but the first game was so full of hope, whereas last night's game, most likely the last I'll see of Cueto in a Reds uniform, was bittersweet. For me, it was a cap on a magnificent career, one where I saw him pitch in low A and saw his debut and saw him lead our team to two division titles after The Losing Years. We were lucky to get to watch him pitch.

I feel like I'm going to a funeral.

Baseball is the best game but goddamn it, it breaks your heart in the worst ways.

Sunday, June 21, 2015


I was going to go to the Nats game today. I wanted to walk to the stadium more than I actually wanted to go to the game, because from my new place, I can. I was going to the Nats game yesterday, too, but I decided against it and missed a no hitter. I was actually getting ready to go to the game yesterday but looked out at my potted plants whom I’ve promised for weeks to get into the ground and decided to stay. Of all the times. (No hitter.)

I don’t know what it is about this season, but I haven’t been paying attention as much. I mean, moving has something to do with it – a LOT to do with it – having to get pieces of the place because we both had so little before. And I have 2.5 hours of commuting every day (the move cut a half hour out of that, hallelujah.) The Reds stink, so there’s that, too, but I’ve had some frequent Comcast internet problems that have prevented me from watching them. And the Nationals, well, they just don’t have that coveted baseball feeling. They did, once, when they arrived to Washington in 2005, I guess because there was a sense of history there. There isn’t one now – it’s more like going to a Washington happy hour. I watch most of the games, still, but I’ve only been to two so far this season, partially – or mostly – because Chris works at the ballpark now and can’t go to games with me, but also because I just haven’t wanted to go as much.

But somehow, tonight, on the day after the solstice, when the sky is still light until 9pm and the temperature is perfect, as my hands and legs are covered in dirt from gardening but I refuse to waste even a second of this beautiful night to wash it off inside, somehow now I think of baseball.

This is my favorite time of year when there is more light now than all year long. It’s not the same as growing up in Ohio, though, because we are on opposite sides of the time zone, and in Washington, we only get until 9pm whereas in Ohio it’s light until 10. One of my goals in life is to someday attend the 24 hour baseball tournament that happens in Alaska with its endless daylight. What could be better than 24 hours or so of baseball? Once I had the great fortune of traveling to Edinburgh, Scotland from London on the summer solstice. We took an overnight bus. It was light until midnight, and I got to see the Northern Lights. Everyone should see that in their lifetime, and if you don’t want to, you might as well be dead, because you certainly aren’t living. I fell asleep on the bus (that was supposed to be the intention) and woke up when it was totally light out – at 3am.  It was the strangest thing. And awesome.

We live close enough to the Marine barracks to hear the bugle at dusk. It’s a wonderful way to move into night. The fireflies are out; they are the only bug that I will touch on purpose, which I think is odd, because so many others are perfectly harmless. I remember in the fields in Ohio the thousands of lightning bugs, as I called them then, and still marvel at them today if I am back there. I can only see dozens at the moment. Right now, though, it seems like enough.

The sky is pink now, the light is waning and I am thinking about baseball on the banks of the Ohio River and the ugly cookie cutter stadium that was the best place on earth and the endless ramps to walk up with the squishy black stuff and the sticky summer days with the ten o’clock night times, back when people weren’t so addicted to air conditioning and they actually could enjoy an evening like I am enjoying it now, with the silhouettes of chimneys in front of the pink sky backdrops and a single visible star in the still blue sky and the white fluffy clouds floating overhead and for a moment that is all too fleeting, everything is perfect.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Brats these days

So, baseball.

I've not been able to follow Reds Spring Training as much as I usually do for a number of reasons, one being the start time of most of the games. I guess I'll never getting over the Reds' stupid decision to move Spring Training to Arizona. It still makes no sense from a fan point of view, and while I understand the economic sense, it just doesn't seem like they made enough effort to stay in Florida, which benefits the fans. I doubt I will ever go to Spring Training in Arizona. (And frankly, that batshit crazy evil state deserves none of my money.) It's hard enough to even listen to the games.

I have been listening to the games from the 4pm start times to the moment I hit the tunnel on my way home from work and lose reception, usually about 5:45.  That's a decent chunk of time, but I'm realizing that my attention span when listening to radio games isn't what it used to be, and I've rarely been able to watch for the first hour before I begin my commute because, one, I'm at work and actually have to do work, and two, either the internet in my office is slow and there is a lot of buffering or MLB.TV is up to its usual failures. You'd think after being a subscriber for ten years I'd come to terms with it. I wonder why others don't have the same kind of issues that have plagued me over the years through eight computers, two smartphones, and one tablet.

Some of my attention span deficit has to do with my excitement for going to Spain the week of Opening Day (no, I'm not missing Opening Day - I'm leaving the Friday after it.) I haven't traveled anywhere since I went to Italy two years ago, so I am very excited about the trip, which, I admit, is diminishing my enthusiasm for Opening Day a bit. I think social media trolls have also contributed to that, too. Baseball just isn't fun when you have sportswriters calling fans idiots and thinking they are God's gift. It's not fun when you continue to see baseball people in the middle of the country post political idiocy because they don't have a clue how the world works. It's not fun when people incapable of logical thinking demand a trade of one of the best players in baseball because he walks too much and they can't do math. Before the twenty-somethings became twenty-somethings, the internet was a good place, but then the little snowflakes grew up and we see how awful parents in their forties really were at parenting. There was no such thing as a troll back when blogs first began.

I've seen the power of social media in other countries, how they've been able to overthrow dictators and protect themselves from tyrannical regimes. Here, social media just seems to be a place where people with average to below average IQs and a sense of entitlement gather to erroneously proclaim their superiority to their equally inane neighbors and people smarter than them. I've tried to purge my Twitter feed of these folks, but they keep popping up anyway. These tools have destroyed our attention spans anyway. The blogosphere was great in the mid-aughts but people stopped being able to read beyond 140 characters and blogs became echo chambers and it was no longer worth the time to write something no one would read. I'm seeing this sentiment in many places these days. A lot of people are giving up on social media, some even returning to their blogs and focusing on what is sadly termed "longform reading" now. It's a sad state of literacy when we have to call writing of substance "longform" and just reiterates the idea that social media is a thoughtless void. (It isn't always, but it does take a lot of time and effort to make it not be.)

The movement to shorten baseball games is another symptom of the same problem but so is the reason for the extended length of games. Used to be, back when honor and respect were things in our society, that you got the ball back from the catcher and you threw it again, and you either swung at a pitch or let it go by and set up for the next pitch. Now players who probably don't pick up books complain that they need time to "think" about what pitch to throw or what the pitcher will throw. Get yourself a Lumosity account and speed up your slow brain if you need to take twenty-three seconds between pitches. And get yourself some batting gloves that fit correctly if you think you need to step out of the box between every pitch to readjust them. I don't like the idea of a clock or the other new rules but I guess something had to be done.

Another reason I haven't been able to follow the Reds as much this Spring Training is that I can't get the video feed on my phone because MLB.TV decides what devices you can and can't use it on. That's a problem in our society, too, the dominance of two giant corporations - Google and Apple - and their ability to dictate what we can and cannot do. Also a symptom of ADD nation - letting giant corporations step all over consumers because it takes too much effort to fight it. It's the same thing with the telecoms. In my neighborhood, we either have Comcast or Verizon internet. There's no other option. And Comcast is so awful that I'm thinking of filing an FCC complaint.  I can't watch MLB.TV on Xfinity because my speeds are so damn slow and Comcast claims there's nothing wrong with it. What the hell am I paying for? I signed up for an upgrade two weeks ago but the guy I talked to didn't actually sign me up and my speeds have been so slow that pages don't load.

There are people who are against net neutrality in this country. That's beyond comprehension. These people clearly have no idea what net neutrality is. I wonder if they even use the internet except that they are constantly tweeting about how they are now "oppressed" by the government because the FCC actually made rules that say the telecoms corporations can't restrict what you can see on the internet. You know what oppression is? Oppression is telecoms corporations (who write the bills passed by Congress) controlling what you are allowed to see on the internet and blocking people who don't pay the most from being able to be seen on the internet. Can you imagine doing that with telephones? So you want to call the local hardware store to see if they have a type of potting soil, but because the local hardware store didn't pay the telephone company as much as the giant corporation Home Depot did, you just keep getting a busy signal. But you have no problem getting through to Home Depot.

It just floors me how people scream and cry oppression in this country when they don't have a clue what they are talking about.

Anyway, the issue of net neutrality is something that would have 99% support if people weren't so hellbent on succumbing to political propaganda . But you know, Obama supports it, so there's a certain segment of the population that is automatically against it even though they'd be screwed by it. Ask one of these people to explain what net neutrality is and they can't. They say it's government controlling the internet. It's actually the exact opposite - it keeps the internet open when corporations wanted to control what you see on the internet. I don't know how it is so misunderstood, but then again, people don't think anymore, they just repeat what they hear on cable news.

And on social media. What percentage of people who spout of sabr kind of stats actually understand it? I've seen so many blogs talk about WAR, BABIP, etc, that clearly don't get the math. Same as those who talk about RBI and pitcher wins as if those are gospel. And the sabrbullies who call those who appreciate the traditional aspects of the game some version of moron.

I read the Times article today about the empathy gap and the psychology of "The Other" and am thinking about how those people who need to read it the most won't because it's too long. Basically it's about a guy who is studying neuroscience to figure out why people don't have empathy for those whom they perceive to be their enemies. He starts off by talking about the Roma in Hungary (who are every bit as discriminated against as African Americans) and how Hungarians agree the Roma should be integrated except when it comes down to actually integrating them.

We have to be aware of the empathy gap if we're going to stop the conflict in our lives, whether it be something as awful as war or something as inane as sabrmetrics.

But I have no empathy for opponents of net neutrality. To them I say "Get a brain, morans!"

Sunday, March 01, 2015

There's a reason it's called the National Pastime

I recently bought a book called Baseball: The Presidents' Game by William B. Mean and Paul Dickson. The book is about what the title says - a history of the baseball activities of each POTUS - and is full of photos of presidents attending games, posing with players, and having teams over at the White House. (Incidentally, did you know that the first president to have a baseball team over to the White House was Andrew Johnson? Or that he was the first one to dub baseball "Our Nation's Game?")

I purchased the book to aid me in my DC Baseball Tours project and because I'm simply interested in the way baseball is intertwined in our nation's history and development. No other sport can say that because no other sport was around when our nation was founded. Baseball and America grew up together. They are childhood friends who have managed to stay in touch, even though America hangs out more with football now. But those two met in college. They don't have the same bond as the duo that was there for each other when soldiers were freezing to death at Valley Forge or the North and South were trying to go through a messy divorce. Heck, baseball is so much a part of our soul as a country that it exists outside the logic of our legal system. In 1922 the Supreme Court ruled in Federal Baseball Club v National League that baseball was a game and not a business, so teams were not participating in interstate commerce and not subject to antitrust laws, a ruling that was upheld half a century later in Flood v Kuhn. While the game that Washington played with his troops at Valley Forge was an early form of baseball and hence is different than the game we love, in our hearts we know that it was still baseball.

We've had 43 presidents (FYI - Cleveland served two separate terms, which is why we say Obama is #44.) The National League was formed in 1876 and the American League in 1901. The Federal League existed from 1914 to 1915 and the American Association existed as a major league from 1882-1891. The National Association, which isn't recognized as a major league by Major League Baseball even though it was the first professional league, existed from 1871-1875. I could go through all the teams and pick a favorite for each president as they existed in his time, but since 17 presidents existed before professional baseball was played, I'm going to use current MLB teams to represent what teams each president would root for based on his hometown.

While putting this list together, I was thinking about how weird it must be to live in a place without a team within 150 miles of you, or to be at the edge of several teams' markets. Like Syracuse. Are they Yankees fans? Pirates? Even Detroit isn't that far.

George Washington, 1789-1797 Washington Nationals (Virginia native)

John Adams, 1797-1801 Boston Red Sox (Boston native)

Thomas Jefferson, 1801-1809 Washington Nationals (Virginia native, though he didn't think highly of games played with balls, believing them to be too violent for the body.)

James Madison, 1809-1817 Washington Nationals (Virginia native)

James Monroe, 1817-1825 Washington Nationals (Virginia native)

John Quincy Adams, 1825-1829 Boston Red Sox (Boston native)

Andrew Jackson, 1829-1837 Atlanta Braves (A Tennessee founder from the Carolinas)

Martin Van Buren, 1837-1841 New York Yankees (From a NY village called Kinderhook)

William Henry Harrison, 1841 Cincinnati Reds (Though he grew up in Virginia, he was assigned to Ohio as an 18 year old in the Army)

John Tyler, 1841-1845 Washington Nationals (Although being from Richmond he could have grown up a Barves fan, being attracted to politics gives the edge to the Nationals.)

James Knox Polk, 1845-1849 Atlanta Braves (He grew up in North Carolina but represented Tennessee.)

Zachary Taylor, 1849-1850 Washington Nationals (Virginia native)

Millard Fillmore, 1850-1853 New York Yankees (Could be Pirates, Red Sox, or Mets, even, as he's from a town near Syracuse. Admittedly I picked the Yankees because he was such a bad president.)

Franklin Pierce, 1853-1857 Boston Red Sox (From New Hampshire)

James Buchanan, 1857-1861 Philadelphia Phillies (From Lancaster area)

Abraham Lincoln, 1861-1865 Chicago White Sox (I think Abe would have sided more with the working class side of town.)

Andrew Johnson, 1865-1869 Atlanta Braves (From Carolinas, moved to Tennessee on foot, spent his professional years there.)

Ulysses S. Grant, 1869-1877 Cincinnati Reds (From Cincy area. In 1869, Grant welcomed the first professional baseball team to the White House, the Cincinnati Red Stockings.)

Rutherford Birchard Hayes, 1877-1881 Cincinnati Reds (Known Red Stockings fan Hayes and his son kept a journal following the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings.)

James Abram Garfield, 1881 Cleveland Indians (Cleveland area native)

Chester Alan Arthur, 1881-1885 New York Yankees (From Upstate New York)

Grover Cleveland, 1885-1889, 1893-1897 New York Yankees (From all over NY, father was from Connecticut.)

Benjamin Harrison, 1889-1893 Cincinnati Reds (A known Reds fan who was the first to attend an MLB game, an NL contest in DC in which the Reds defeated the Washington Senators 7-4.)

William McKinley, 1897-1901 Cleveland Indians (From NE Ohio)

Theodore Roosevelt, 1901-1909 New York Yankees (He was from a Manhattan family of means and married a NYC socialite, hence the choice for Yankees. In reality, he wasn't a big baseball fan.)

William Howard Taft, 1909-1913 Cincinnati Reds (A known Cincinnati baseball fan who was the first to thrown out a first pitch.)

Woodrow Wilson, 1913-1921 Atlanta Braves (He grew up in the South. Wilson may be considered the first fantasy baseball player, he was so obsessed with stats.)

Warren Gamaliel Harding, 1921-1923 Cleveland Indians (From just above Columbus, he's in territory that is not without its share of Reds fans.)

Calvin Coolidge, 1923-1929 New York Yankees One of the worst presidents in history, he grew up in New England, but saw a bunch of Yankees games in DC. Probably was a bandwagon Senators fan, too.)

Herbert Clark Hoover, 1929-1933 Tough to call. (Hoover was a terrible president but a huge baseball fan. He grew up all over the country but judging from his attendance records as president, he could have been a Philadelphia A's fan, although they booed him mercilessly at one game. Maybe he would have been a Nats fan.)

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 1933-1945 New York Giants (FDR loved baseball and the Giants. I guess he'd be a Mets fan today.)

Harry S. Truman, 1945-1953 St. Louis Cardinals (Truman attended more games as POTUS (16) than any other, all in Washington. He could have been a Nationals fan, but he grew up in Independence.)

Dwight David Eisenhower, 1953-1961 Kansas City Royals (I know that Kansas City is in Missouri, but it's the closest team to the place in Kansas where Ike was from. Ike may have played semi-pro ball in a Kansas league before attending West Point.)

John Fitzgerald Kennedy, 1961-1963 Boston Red Sox (The quintessential New Englander. Although he liked football more than baseball.)

Lyndon Baines Johnson, 1963-1969 Houston Astros (Doesn't seem to be much of a baseball fan.)

Richard Milhous Nixon, 1969-1974 Los Angeles Angels (Tricky dick was a big baseball fan who grew up in the Anaheim area. He attended a few Angels games as POTUS.)

Gerald Rudolph Ford, 1974-1977 Detroit Tigers (He was raised in Grand Rapids.)

James Earl Carter, Jr., 1977-1981 Atlanta Braves (He's frequently seen at Barves games.)

Ronald Wilson Reagan, 1981-1989 Chicago Cubs (He was born in Illinois and called Cubs games on the radio in the thirties.)

George Herbert Walker Bush, 1989-1993 Houston Astros (A staple behind home plate when he was healthy.)

William Jefferson Clinton, 1993-2001 St. Louis Cardinals (That's a shame.)

George Walker Bush, 2001-2009 Houston Astros (Rangers ownership aside.)

Barack Hussein Obama, 2009-2017 Chicago White Sox

If you know of any president who was actually a fan of a team and I got it wrong, let me know. A lot of this is just imagination.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

General managing trolls

It must be tough to be a GM these days, at least as tough as a politician. (Yes, good politicians do exist, even in our mess of a system.) Most of these old white guys grew up before Bill James became Jesus and RBIs were still a measure of offensive prowess. Suddenly, an explosion of data appeared like the Word of God and whole teams of apostles had to be hired to sift through it all, unless of course they weren’t hired and the Stat Bible was ignored, which it was and still is by a few dinosaurs.

Baseball is a guessing game, and an entire industry is dedicated to making the appropriate guesses. Everything’s a gamble, from choosing what players you want for your team to choosing what pitch to throw. Some of it can be better predicted through probability, but you can’t predict whether or not a guy will be able to make it in the big leagues. There are too many non-data variables involved – freak injuries, mental ineptitude, lack of desire…whatever happens is largely beyond your control. Then, of course, you hear no end of it, how a guy was a bad draft pick and you could tell he was going to be injured by his motion and blah blah blah. These folks just like to hear themselves talk. As the wise Forrest Gump once said, “it happens.” Math isn't the answer to everything.

Not only do you have to choose your personnel, but you have to deal with all the BS, the salary limitations, the labor disputes, the arbitration, and all the things that have nothing to do with the game itself except that these things affect the happiness and well-being of the players. The personalities, well, that’s a whole other issue. Managing a bunch of millionaires is probably worse than managing a regular office. You have to deal with a lot of people who feel entitled to this or that by virtue of the tax bracket they’re in. Then there are those for whom the spotlight turns them into prima donnas, and everything - even what kind of brand of fruit is provided in the clubhouse - becomes some sort of drama.

But the worst, the absolute worst of it all must be dealing with the fans, specifically the nutjobs who think they could do a better job. There are certain things that a fan can observe and then there is everything else. The Reds did very little this off season despite having a few obvious and pretty big flaws, and that is frustrating. We don’t know what our GM tried to do; we only know what he did do.

Sure, it’s fun to speculate and say Mr. GM Man should have done this or should do that, but there’s a difference between speculation or occasional criticism to the full-time job of complaining that a lot of fans do. I wonder about the lives of these people. Are they so empty, so dull, that they can find nothing better to do with their time?

Social media has given a voice to the inane and the insane. It can be pretty disheartening at times. Just enjoy the game.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

I’m Latos with this post, but here goes

I read with some interest the comments Mat Latos said about the Reds’ clubhouse, because I’d been wondering myself if there were issues there dating back to 2013 when Tom Brady stopped by Cincinnati and deflated the team in September.

The sabrbullies, most of whom were never good enough athletes to play serious ball (BURN), like to mock the concept of “intangibles” such as “veteran presence” and “leadership.” One has to wonder if these sad creatures have ever been a part of a team of any kind at all. In this thing we call human nature, there are four types of people – leaders, followers, the clueless, and hermits. This is true in all aspects of life, whether you’re talking about a sports team, a corporation, a political party, or even a circle of friends. (Although I guess if you’re a hermit you’re probably not part of a circle of friends.)

Now, Latos may not have been well-liked in the clubhouse (was he?), and speaking out like that through the media is a total dick move, but that doesn’t mean his comments don’t hold some truth. Doesn't mean they do, either. We’ve seen how flat the Reds can seem too many times. I don’t know why he wasn’t liked, or at least why he felt he wasn't liked, but I can take some guesses. I'm trying to figure out why he said those things. Some possibilities:

1. Latos is really a pain in the ass and is pissed that he didn’t have a great season. Maybe he’s blaming everyone else. I don’t remember it, but someone mentioned that he made some comments about the Padres when he left them, too. He could just be a bonafide jerk. I want to believe that isn’t the case, but his comments make him come across as a dick. I’m not going to dismiss him or what he said because I wasn’t there. We weren’t there. If my team at work were dicking around in my office and playing video games instead of preparing for the job, I’d be pissed off, too. But this could have been exaggerated. Bottom line is, we don’t know.

2. Mat and his wife Dallas are liberal-minded people in a sport dominated by white country boys and foreign nationals from various conservative Catholic countries south of the US border. The couple supports the NoH8 campaign and various noble causes that traditional folks may reject. I don’t know Mat or Dallas, but as someone who is well-versed in the arts and follies of politics, I have seen countless personality clashes based on such differences. I am not saying this is the case at all. How could I? I’ve never been in the clubhouse and I don’t know any of the players. I only know what I see in the media and from their own social networking accounts. Dallas had a pretty good blog that gave us a great idea what life is like in a Major League household, and she always spoke her mind even when it wasn’t popular. She received a lot of hate mail because there is a lot of hate in this world and because she lived in a part of the country where hate thrives openly when you are on the liberal side of things. People say Mat didn’t “fit in.” I’m not sure what is meant by that, but I take it to mean the clubhouse was a homogenous sort and that very well could have driven complacency. For that matter, Brandon Phillips has never really "fit in," either, and he was once deemed a "clubhouse cancer," but that may have been a case of certain media folks getting their wittle feewings hurt because he wouldn't talk to them.

3. Latos tried to be a leader in the clubhouse and to make his teammates get off their asses but was scoffed at. Perhaps they thought him too bossy or that he complained too much. His leadership skills may be lacking, or maybe there are some really lazy players on our team. I find that hard to believe. However, not everyone is blessed with leadership qualities, and their shortcomings could come across as barking. Maybe he's just more intense than the other guys.

4. Latos didn’t get along with one of the popular players on the team, and players took that player’s side in things. High school never ends for some people; popularity is still a thing with them. To that I say, grow up.

5. Because Latos wasn’t on the 2010 playoff team and wasn’t homegrown, he was from day one viewed as an outsider. Think about it. Most of our guys have played together for a long time, or they shared experiences in the same minor league cities. Maybe it's tough to break into the friendship circles that have formed over the years. 

6. The real story about his injury is that Homer Bailey shot him with a crossbow and he's still mad at him. This is probably most likely.

Regardless of what it was, I feel like he could be right about the lack of leadership. While I can’t know why he didn’t try to step up and fill that role or if he tried and failed to do so, I could believe him. Too many times in the last couple of years we’ve watched the lifeless Reds seemingly go through the motions, and I’m reminded of how Barry Larkin could fire up the players and how he would hold closed door team meetings when times were bad and the players were performing poorly. He would kick any videogame playing slacker’s butt if it were interfering with his preparation for a game. If that's really what was going on.

Scott Rolen was one of my least favorite players before he came to the Reds, and even then it took some getting used to before I could accept him on our team. But I came to realize just how valuable he was as the 2010 season wore on and we were poised to make our first postseason in a decade and a half. Veteran presence. Leadership. It can make the difference between winning the division (2010, 2012) and barely getting a wild card (2013) or not getting close (2014). Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

As for the medical comments, there is a joke in Redsland about Dr. Kremchek’s “poking stick.” I’m no doctor, but there is a certain reputation among us know-nothings that something isn’t kosher with Reds medical diagnoses. Latos isn’t the first to complain about the medical staff. (Though I think Jim Edmonds was just a Taint Louis whiner...) Other players love him. Who knows what’s really going on except the people with medical degress who have access to the clubhouse?

One thing that I’ve come to realize impresses me early on is Marlon Byrd speaking up about Latos’s comments before he even put on a Cincinnati uniform. It’s a good sign, not only because he already is defending his new teammates, but because it shows the leadership he is said to possess, one reason he was signed over more productive options, at least from what I've read. I was not a fan of the signing – an aged veteran with a couple of decent seasons and a marginal upgrade from Ludwick in terms of offensive production doesn’t seem to be the answer to the Reds offensive woes. But he’s been around. I’ve heard that he’s respected throughout the league. I have to think his contributions to the team are felt greater in the clubhouse than on the field.

Remember, in 2013 we noticed a lack of “fire” in the team and blamed Dusty for not firing up his players. We questioned the team’s motivation and wondered where the leadership was. Latos’s comments come as no surprise, and maybe it’s better that he did speak up. Maybe it can serve as early motivation. Something should, because with the schedule being the way it is this year, this season could be over in April if we lose too many games to the NL Central teams. Toughest division in baseball again, and now all five teams can compete.

Who knows? We’re not in that clubhouse. Only our red-socked club of millionaires can create the kind of environment that is conducive to winning. Hopefully, the poison has been drained from the team and they’ll bust out of the gate with the kind of fire that we’ve wanted to see in them. Regardless, we’re all ready to get this thing started. Life is miserable in the absence of baseball.

Level 99 Denim